The Last Appeal of Joshua
January 31st, 1960 @ 8:15 AM
THE LAST APPEAL OF JOSHUA
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Joshua 23, 24
1-31-60 8:15 a.m.
To you who listen on the radio, you are sharing with us the early morning service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing that message entitled Joshua’s Last Appeal. For these past several months, we have been following the life of this great warrior for God, and the message this morning closes the book. The twenty-third and the twenty-fourth chapters, both of them, record the last appeal of this warrior. The twenty-third chapter is an address that he made to the rulers, the judges, the heads of the tribes, and the twenty-fourth chapter is the final appeal that he addressed to all the people of God.
Now, it begins like this, Joshua 23, the first verse: "It came to pass a long time after that the Lord had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua waxed old and stricken in age."
When I turned back to the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Joshua, it says that same thing. It began, "Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the Lord said unto him, Thou art old and stricken in years."
Between that first comment on the aging warrior of Christ, in Joshua 13:1 – and the same comment that is made on the aging of the warrior in Joshua 23:1 – between those two evenings of his life, Joshua allotted the land to the people. That brings to heart and to mind our Lord fed the five thousand in the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew, between the two evenings of Matthew 14:15 and Matthew 14:23. "And when it was evening," it begins the story; and then it closes the story, "and when evening was come." Between those two evenings, our Lord fed the five thousand; and between the two evenings of Joshua’s life, he allotted to the people their homes and their land.
The first evening was as the sun of his life began to decline, and the last evening was the glorious setting of the sun. So in the thirteenth chapter of Joshua, when it comments on the age of this stricken warrior, it is the afternoon. It is the incline of the sun of his life toward the west. Then, follow those years when he divided the land to the people. And now in Joshua 23 and 24: "And Joshua waxed old and stricken in age" [Joshua 23:1]. This is the final setting of the sun.
It is a remarkable thing, this development, this thing that has changed in the life of the great warrior. After the years of his conquest and the sword in his hand, he has become the sage, the man of wisdom and experience, and the warrior has given place to the administrator. And he stands now at the end of his days, mellowed with the years of the unfolding program and purpose of God in his own life and in the lives of his people, and it is a beautiful thing to comment here that the finest work of his life was done in his age.
You know that’s a marvelous thing, to bear fruit in old age; that the decaying tree should bud and leaf and foliate. It’s a glorious thing to think that the same triumphant life moves on from the swift rapids of youth, down to the full, deep abundance of the river’s mouth, and that in the autumn, there can be wrought for God the same marvelous ministries as were achieved in the vigor and the elasticity of the days of youth.
It’s a wonderful thing to remember, and to think, and to call to mind and to heart that maybe the athlete must give up his task and his work. And the man in the business world has to retire. And in every other area of life, we come to the end of the way. But as long as you live, as long as you draw a breath, you can honor and glorify and serve our blessed Lord. If there is no other thing in invalidism but to pray, it is great in the elective purposes of God for His people to pray.
This is a marvelous thing that God has done for His people. In youth time, in childhood, we can love God. In the strength of manhood and womanhood, we can honor our Lord. And to old age and to death, we can be no less His loyal and faithful and trusted servants. That’s no small part of the glorious life of this church. It is filled with young people and filled with children and filled with young married people and young adults, and they are our glory. They are our church tomorrow. But it is marvelous to see our people in age, with their wisdom and experience making a marvelous and incomparable contribution to the richness of the life of this wonderful and blessed church.
And isn’t it a comfort to your heart to remember that as the years grow old, the life just grows better and finer and sweeter and nobler. The whole thing progresses towards the fullness and abundance of God. You know how old Joshua is here in this passage from which I’m preaching this morning? He was at least 108 years of age. I see some of you out there that think you’re kind of old. You’re just boys; George McCall, you just started. Oh, that’s a great thing. Dr. Falher’s just beginning. He’s just getting wise where he can tell us things, show us the way. So he was old and stricken in age, and yet in that age, Joshua did his finest and his greatest work.
Now, he had a burden, had a burden on his heart. As he lived among his people the years after the conquest, there came to be a persuasion, a conviction in his heart concerning the idolatry and the heathenism that remained in the land. Finally, as you read the story and follow it through, finally it destroyed Israel. The Assyrians took away the ten tribes of the north in 722, and in 586 Nebuchadnezzar came with the Chaldeans and destroyed Judah. Joshua was a prophet and could see that, and it was a burden to his heart. You know, I suppose any old warrior would tell you the same thing. It’s a lot easier to win a battle than it is to fight against sin day by day. And it is much easier to storm an impregnable fortress and overwhelm it than it is to keep the heart true and obedient to God. In the days of their conquest, one victory was followed after another. But the great old man, as he comes to the twilight of his life and looks in the long distant future and the vistas that lay ahead, the old warrior is filled with great care and concern for his people.
Now, he called this great convocation, and Joshua 24:1 it says where they gathered: "And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem," Just to mention that place is to think of a multitude of holy associations. In Shechem, that’s Sychar, that’s the well of Jacob, that’s Ebal and Gerizim, that’s the little valley that runs up between those two peaks. It’s in the very heart of Palestine.
Shechem is the first place that Abraham stopped as a stranger in the land. It was at Shechem that the Lord appeared to Abraham and gave him the incomparable promise that his seed should inherit the land [Genesis 12:6-7]. It was in Shechem that Abraham built his first altar [Genesis 12:8]. It was in Shechem that Israel – that Jacob came from Haran and there, for a hundred pieces of silver, bought a parcel of land from Hamor [Genesis 33:19].
It was in Shechem that Jacob cleansed his household of all other pagan gods and prepared to go back up to Bethel [Genesis 35:2]. It was that little place in Shechem that Jacob on his dying bed bequeathed the inheritance to his son Joseph in the land of the pharaohs [Genesis 48:22]. It was in Shechem that the bones of Joseph were buried when the great exodus was completed and Joshua had led the people into the land [Joshua 24:32]. The Book of Joshua closes with the story of the burial of the bones of Joseph in Shechem.
It was in Shechem that Moses directed the people when they crossed over Jordan, there to take the land for God and to renew their covenant relationship with the Lord [Deuteronomy 27:2]. It was there, on Mount Ebal of cursing, on Mount Gerizim of blessing, that the law was read [Joshua 8:30-35]. It was there that the well of Jacob was dug, and Jesus set thus weary on the well and spake to the Samaritan woman about spiritual worship [John 4:5-42]. Or just to mention the place is to bring with it that long list of hallowed memories.
So this old warrior calls those people to Shechem, and there he delivers his soul, first to the elders, to the rulers, to the judges, to the heads of the tribes, to the officers of the people; reminds you of Moses on the plains of Moab in his last appeal.
It reminds you of the apostle Paul when he called for the Ephesian elders at Miletus, and there spake to them. Do you remember what Paul said? "After my departure, I know that grievous wolves shall come, not sparing the flock" [Acts 20:29]. That’s the identical thing that Joshua says here. He’s burdened because of the idolatry in the land, the people that are left in the land, the Canaanites that are still in the land.
And if I had about an hour and a half this morning, I’d surely like to preach for a while about the kind of a world in which your life as a Christian is cast. It is cast in a land of paganism, and of heathenism, and of idolatry, and of gross iniquity. It’s where you work. It’s on the street where you live. It’s in the type of life that is all around you. It is the same thing here in the land of Palestine, and Joshua is burdened because of the people that are left in the land of the Canaanites and all of the idolatry that went with their worship.
So he makes three appeals. One is this, in the twenty-third chapter in the sixth verse: he makes his first appeal to keep and to do what is written in the Book. That’s his first appeal. I do not know of a greater anchor for you and for your soul than to anchor it on the Book, this Book. "Keep and do all that is written in the Book."
Then his second appeal was in the seventh and the eighth verses: "Their gods, do not serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them, but cleave unto the Lord."
Then his third appeal in the eleventh verse: "Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that you love the Lord your God."
I think that would work in any life in any situation: one, to love, to keep, to read, to hallow this Book; second, to refuse to bow before the gods of this world, whether it be of social gods, or mammon, or convenience, or accommodations, or a compromise. Just don’t bow. Just don’t worship. Just don’t live in that world. Don’t walk in that direction. And the third, to love the Lord: that would work in any life and in any place.
Then he addresses his appeal finally to all the people together, and this is the word in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book, to all of Israel, to all the people. And he starts off first with a little summary of the providences of God up to that moment. And how Joshua could do it! Standing on a pre-eminence, looking back over a century of the gracious providences of God and then looking forward into the heavenly future, and so much of that review did Joshua himself share in. He was born in Goshen in the land of Egypt and toiled as a slave in the brick kilns.
When he was forty years old, he heard the call of Moses and answered and was a part of the glorious exodus. He shared in the marvelous triumph of the Lord at the Red Sea. On the seventh day beyond the Red Sea, he was chosen as the minister of Moses and the leader of the armies of God when they fought with Amalek at Rephidim [Exodus 17:8]. It was Joshua who went up with Moses on the sides of Sinai, and stood below while the man of God received from the Lord the commandments.
It was Joshua who saw the tragic debacle of unbelief at Kadesh-barnea, he and Caleb. It was Joshua who stood by Moses in all of the years of the wilderness wandering, and it was Joshua’s sword that was exchanged for Moses’ rod when they crossed the Jordan, surrounded Jericho, conquered Ai, the five kings before Gibeon, the great confederacy of the north under the Jabin of Hazor and who allotted the land.
It’s hard to realize that in one man’s life so much of the providential mercies and directives of God should have found fruit. He reviews that past. Then he makes the most marvelous appeal you could ever read in your life. Have you heard Dr. Truett’s sermon on this text, this appeal of Joshua? I heard it broadcast over the radio several Sunday mornings ago. "Now therefore," Joshua says, "fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity and in truth. And if it seems evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose ye this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your father served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!" [Joshua 24:14-15].
There couldn’t be a finer, nobler appeal or commitment or decision day that is represented in this marvelous word of Joshua. He’s like a soldier always. To him, it’s yes or no. It’s right or it’s wrong. He never deviates from that in his whole life. In the fifth chapter of the Book of Joshua, when he saw the stranger, he went up to Him fearlessly and said, "Are You for us, or are You for our adversaries?" [Joshua 5:13]. It was one or the other with Joshua. All of life actually and ultimately is just like that. It’s a decision, one or the other. It’s good or bad. It’s light or dark. It’s God or Satan. It’s good or evil. And Joshua says, "You cannot hold to God with one hand and to evil and mammon in the world with the other." All of life ultimately becomes one piece. It either flows toward God or it flows toward evil.
Now the old soldier is dead. May I speak three things here of the reward of his life? And I just named them. First, you look at the tribute; you look at the comment on his life. In the thirty-first verse: "And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that knew Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord that He had done for Israel." And isn’t that a glorious thing? And that word is repeated in Judges [2:7]: "And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that knew Joshua." What a glorious tribute!
All right, the second one, in the twenty-ninth verse: "And it came to pass after these things, that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being a hundred and ten years old" [Joshua 24:29]. Isn’t that the finest epitaph you could ever think for – Joshua, the servant of the Lord? Well, that would be good enough to put on anybody’s tomb, wouldn’t it? "Joshua, the servant of the Lord." You, and underneath – "The servant of the Lord."
Now one other: do you notice in the Book, in the Bible that no member of his family, no member of his household, no descendant, no son, no genealogy ever beyond Joshua himself? Have you ever noticed that? For example, in the long genealogies of Ephraim in the seventh chapter of 1 Chronicles, you have the genealogy of Ephraim in the house of Joshua, and it closes with Joshua. The last member in the house is Joshua. When Joshua is named, the line stops.
Do you notice that in the genealogy of our Lord Jesus in Matthew 1? All through those generations, and it stops with Joshua, Jesus. And the third chapter of Hebrews and the [sixth] verse says that the Son, Jesus, the Lord Himself, is over His house as a Son and as a Lord. Of whose house are we? We are the children of the great Joshua, we who by faith belong to Him. Joshua, the great, great type of our Lord, and our Savior took his name. And when He was born, Mary, the mother, and Joseph were told to name the little child Joshua, for He shall save His people [Matthew 1:21]. And in our language Joshua is Jesus.
So we close the wonderful, noble life of this warrior for God, this elder statesman, this glorious minister of Moses, and servant of the Lord – and what an encouragement to us as we think upon his name and as we listen to his final and noble appeal.
In this moment now, in the balcony round on this lower floor, somebody you, this morning, to give his heart to the Lord, somebody you, to put his life in the fellowship of our church: while we sing the song, while we make this appeal, would you come, a family you, or just one somebody you? However God shall say the word and lead the way and open the door, would you come? Would you make it now, while we stand and while we sing?
LAST APPEAL OF JOSHUA
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Joshua’s call for the rulers and the people
1. Abraham’s altar
2. Resting place
3. Jacob’s well
1. Israel served the Lord the rest of Joshua’s life
2. Worthy epitaph
3. Type of the Lord Jesus
IV. Joshua’s commitment
1. He pressed for a decision Joshua 24:15
2. He boldly spoke
3. He had zeal
4. He openly avowed his commitment
5. Call to commitment